Thursday, June 12, 2008

Catching is Seeing

You gone tear them up lil man?

I guess so.

Aw you got to meanit lil man. You got to see yo self catchin fish befo you can catch them fish.

Papa laughed and the crown of his cigar ash tumbled down his shirt. We had loaded up on crickets and minnows. Papa had grabbed a carton of worms, a few artifical lures that we'd probably never use. The man behind the counter was twice the size of Papa and he burst from his Liberty overalls. His neck hung thickly in rings as a dog's and his wide veined hand rubbed at his beard, white and wiry as a scrub brush.

Aw hell, he laughed. You gone tear them up, lil man. You mark my word. You watch.

We got back in the El Camino and drove. I watched as the sky went from black to indigo. I watched as it went to navy to thin blue to white with light. The sun splinttered though the cracked windshield. The AM radio crackled and stilted voices spoke of things that did not concern me. We stopped to get gas and Papa bought Tampa Nuggets and Cokes and pre-packaged sandwiches and chips. He bought cans of Vienna sausages and Chunky candy bars.

It won't be long, Sturt, he said.

I was fine with it. I danced my arm in the warm wind. The air was hot and the cicadas sawed and screeched and sounded as the summer itself, alive and humming. I thought about the bugs that I did not see as Papa backed the boat up into the pond. The boat slid silently into the warm green water. Bugs lit thickly in the air. Swarms of them danced in pockets over the water. Papa parked the El Camino and we pushed the boat on.

We rowed. We baited up. I watched Papa grab a minnow and slip the hook under his throat. The barb winked from its silver belly. I tried. The minnow danced from my fingers. Plop. I watched as the silverfish vanished into the green water. I tried again. I watched it as I dug the hook into its throat. Its eye widened as the barb woke from its tail. It straightened and then twitched, adjusting to the hook. I picked the rod up from the boat and raised back and shot the line out over the bow. I watched as the bait and bobber tumbled in air and then splashed upon the surface and steadied.

Nice cast, Sturt.

Papa lit a Nugget and the gray smoke puffed over his face and shrank away. He cast one rod and then another. He watched their bobbers steady and then he baited a third with a worm. I watched as the thin red line danced and throbbed about the sting of the hook. He shot the line towards the bank and its bobber steadied and a dragonfly set upon it.

I reeled in. I checked the minnow. Its eyes held quiet, spooked. It was dead. I cast out and watched the line straighten and fall.

You aint gonna catch any fish castin and reelin, castin and reelin. Let it set in there, Sturt.

I watched the bobber. I imagined a fish surging from the bottom to ravage the bait. I thought about how I might set the hook, how playing that fish might go, how I would get him on the reel and let that Zebco do the work. Maybe I'd get a largemouth. Maybe it'd be a record Crappie. Two-hands. Two adult hands. Bigger than a teenager's calf. Maybe it would be.

I watched the bobber. Down and over, down and over. It seemed like the line moved. But it didn't. I thought about that fish surging again and I thought about what I'd do. Papa threw me some Fritos and a Coke. I watched the bobber. The salt of the chips and the sugar of the Coke was good. I burped.

That man at the shop was right you know, Papa said. You got to see yourself catchin fish before that line'll go tight for you, Sturt. He aint lyin.

I watched the bobber. And then I thought of that fish.

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